Seattle DPD is now the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections. DPD's City Planning division is now the Office of Planning & Community Development.

Land Use / Master Use - State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)

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What Is It?

The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) is legislation that allows local governments to identify and mitigate possible environmental impacts of certain projects.

You may need a SEPA review if your project involves:

Our SEPA review is generally intended to cover impacts that are not mitigated by existing codes and requirements such as Design Review and the Environmentally Critical Areas, Grading, Land Use, and Noise codes.

When other codes are not sufficient or there are no codes to mitigate impacts, we can use SEPA to place limits on the development permit. For example, we may limit your construction hours if there are residents nearby that would suffer from weekend construction noise.

When completing SEPA review we will make a determination of significance or determination of non-significance based on the proposed impacts of your development. A determination of non-significance means your project may have impacts, but those impacts may be mitigated by conditions we placed on the project. If a project has received a determination of significance, then SEPA review will be completed through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS review process requires a number of additional process steps and review requirements.

Types of SEPA Review

If you have a large development, we will need to review SEPA polices to assess the project impacts to people and the environment. Many large developments may also require Design Review. SEPA policy may address impacts such as:

  • Height, bulk, and scale
  • Parking and traffic
  • Historic landmarks
  • Drainage

If you have a smaller project located within an environmentally critical area you may need a limited SEPA review. In that case, we would only look at impacts and conditions specifically related to the affected critical area, such as steep slopes or wetlands.

Government agency or City department proposals may conduct their own SEPA review. In those cases our role is to apply Seattle SEPA policies to see if additional conditions are needed based on the impacts that were identified.

How Much Does It Cost?

Our review fee is $250 per hour. You need to provide a deposit when you submit your land use application. After we accept your application, we will send you a monthly invoice for all review time completed in that billing cycle. If you do not pay your invoice, we will stop reviewing your project. See Tip 201 for average review costs.

How Long Does It Take?

How long it takes us to complete our review of your proposal depends on several factors, including the:

  • Complexity of your proposal
  • Whether environmental impact statement is required
  • Quality of your plans and project documentation
  • Timely response to correction letters and requests for further information
  • Public interest

Steps to Get Your Permit


1. Research

Find your property information. Research your site to help you plan your project.

Determine restrictions to your project. Research the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) to determine standards that will apply to your proposal.

Attend a coaching session. We offer 20 minutes of free coaching in the Applicant Services Center to answer drainage, land use, geotechnical, or construction permit questions. If you need a longer coaching session, we offer one-hour sessions for $250.

2. Start Permit Application

Apply for a project number. Get a project number by starting your application online or by submitting a preliminary application in person, by mail, or by fax. You will need to provide a site plan.

Request a pre-application site visit. Pre-application site visits are required for all land use projects. Request a pre-application site visit online or submit a pre-application site visit form. Our report will include information about your next steps, potential right-of-way or utility improvements, what to include in your plans, and what to provide at your intake appointment.

Request a pre-submittal conference (optional). We recommend pre-submittal conferences for very complex projects, including work in environmentally critical areas or shorelines. One-hour pre-submittal conference fees vary based on the type of conference you need.

Apply for exemptions. You may be eligible for an exemption from environmentally critical area and/or shoreline code requirements.

Coordinate with other agencies. You may need permits or approvals from other agencies. These are the most common agencies you may need to work with for your permit type:

Prepare your plans and technical documents. Your plans should be to scale and easy to read and scan. You may need to submit technical documents including a survey, geotechnical and wetland reports, and other types of reports. Our Tips and code standards provide additional detail on the type of plans and reports we require to review your proposal.

3. Submit Plans

Schedule an intake appointment. Call (206) 684-8850 to schedule an intake appointment at the Applicant Services Center, or schedule an electronic appointment. 

Pay fees. You must pay a deposit for your review and noticing fees at intake. We will invoice you monthly for additional fees review process. We will stop reviewing your project if you do not pay your monthly invoice.

Wait for public notice. We will issue a public notice for your project as required by SMC 23.76.012. If required, you are responsible for building and installing a large environmental public notice sign. Once you've installed the sign, let us know and we'll begin our public notice process.

We'll consider all public comments we receive during the 2 - 4 week public comment period.

Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Once all of our reviews are done, we will contact you to pick up your plan sets and make corrections. Your project may require multiple correction rounds before our review is complete.

Pay outstanding fees. Once our review is complete, you must pay any remaining fees before we publish our decision.

Read our decision. We will publish our decision on your project in our Land Use Information Bulletin once all reviews are complete. We will also send a notice of our decision to everybody that submitted a public comment on your project. Our decision will include any required conditions of approval.

Submit an appeal. If you or a member of the public disagree with our decision, you may file an appeal with the Seattle Hearing Examiner within 14 days from when we publish our decision.

4. Get Permit

Pick up permit. Once Seattle DCI has approved your project, you will be contacted to pick up your permit and approved plans at the permit issuance counter in the Applicant Services Center.

5. Apply for Construction Permit

You may apply for a construction permit at any time once you submit a land use application. However, the project can change and evolve through the land use application review process. Corrections required by our decision may require building plan changes that can result in costly design changes.

What Do You Want To Do?

Still Need Help?

 Ask Us

  • Schedule a coaching session: (206) 684-8850